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June, 2016: Fantasy > Fantasy genre -

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message 1: by Amy (new)

Amy | 8863 comments OK - so I am about 30% done with the Lions of Al-Rassan, which for some reason I thought was on the fantasy tag, through put communications, but maybe I misunderstood. I heard about it first through the very popular book swap, and it seems so many people had loved this book so when I learned it fit the tag, I went with it. Chucking two other possibilities. I am enjoying it, but it generated a question for me, about what is fantasy - if indeed this is. So its clear to me that His Magesty's Dragon, deals with some kind of quest over a dragon egg. This seems clear to me. Outlander, which the library needed back anyway, seems to have the premise of a woman dropping through a time portal landing her centuries back, and that too seems to have a "fantastical" feel. I guess I expected this tag to have some kind of magic, or animals who speak, or alien worlds. But this one, should it fit, would fit because its not quite historical fiction. There are varying religious groups from communities that never existed in mythological places. Is this enough to call it fantasy, because its not steeped in actual history? Its not quite historical fiction - its more historical fantasy I suppose. It just made me wonder from its opening. I have recently loved the 5 books I read by Laura Andersen that began with the Boleyn Deceit. It answers the fictional premise, what if Anne Boleyn's son had lived, and Prince William became King, and Elizabeth still somehow got to be queen following that? This clearly did not happen, although it was a real place and a real time. But I'd hardly equate that as fantasy. So what (if so) qualifies a fantasy genre tag, for fictional historical events, fictional places, and fictional religions and communities? Just curious. Sort of happy that no one has dropped through a portal, or there is no fantastical dragon egg.

Now onto my thoughts about the Lions of Al-Rassan, and bear with me, because I really have only hit about a third of it. There is a lot of violence and senseless beheading whose reasons appear unclear. There are a lot of characters and its extremely hard to keep them, and their motivations straight. There are a lot of warring factions, and how and why they are at war elude me. Quite a few Kings. But so far, my reaction is that is should be called the Lionesses of Al-Rassan, because the women are simply amazing. For example, (spoiler alert - but what can be spoiled in the first third of a book?) Miranda, wife of Sir Roderigo, the Captain? What a gal. She is rumored to be the most beautiful in the land, and men come from far and wide to try to rape her. She births a calf while men are coming to murder and pillage their family, and then arranges the capture and assassination of one of the grimiest leaders, and before executing him, makes him feel like a fool in front of his men. Jehane, who seems an incredible character, has more spunk as a woman doctor, than most of us could dream. These women are kick ass, and really make the men seem foolish and senseless. I have just finished the part where Miranda orchestrates their first "reunion" and that was hilarious! So far, it is the women who are driving the book for me. I have ascertained from the book jacket, that it seems Jehane will fall between a love story of two men, and so far I predict they are going to be mysterious murderer from the beginning of the novel, who seems to mystically appear and disappear throughout the book - perhaps he ears it the fantasy tag. The other, I have guessed to be the guy in the Captain's company who was pissing by the side of the wagon. I somehow doubt the Captain himself will be the other lover, his wife has made that impossibility quite clear, but he may be the conduit to bringing (Alvar?) the pissing guy to Rangone(?) the place where yet another Kingdom is, where Jehane is currently hiding, and its unclear why… Because her silk merchant patient, who she has parted company with, was meant to be executed, but survived due to a kidney stone. How that implicated her is unclear, but people seem to seek her blue eyes and her skills as a doctor, which is also unclear. Anyway, she is also on the run, and yet wanting to exact vengeance for her father, who was maimed in the name of the intersection of medicine and religion. None of this makes much sense either. These women though, are kick ass, and seem to be hidden jewels amongst a society where little reason or sense prevail. They hold their own. They are caring mothers, and they get the job done. They are bright, cool headed, and now that I think about it, the political metaphor in America has a place to be noted. If they were choosing a leader to unite their lands in a safe and fair and economical government, would they choose yet another divisive male of violent temperament and poor reason, or should they look to the women as the obvious choice, for clear thinking, insightful, sensical, cool headed true warriors with heart and strength? Just a thought. In any case, will share more when I've completed it. But if anyone wants to offer any thoughts on my question about the fantasy genre, or anything else - this has been what's on my mind. Thoughts welcome….

message 2: by Jgrace (last edited Jun 20, 2016 08:24AM) (new)

Jgrace | 2945 comments Guy Gavriel Kay has become on of my favorite writers. I would agree that this book is very light on fantasy elements. This is what I said about it in my review; the link to his web site says it far better than I could:

Kay has some interesting things to say about the value of using fantasy to tackle historic subjects. There is an essay about this on his website. His author’s comments increased my appreciation of his writing.

message 3: by Nicole R (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7782 comments It seems like almost every literary genre that PBT encounters spurs a discussion on what defines that genre. And, with fantasy, it is even more complicated because fantasy is really a broad, supergenre, with many subgenres included in it.

And, I think that different readers define fantasy in different ways. Dragons, magic, epic quests often area clear signal of the fantasy genre. However, how much magic? I do not consider magical realism to be fantasy. Where do the quests take place? I consider quests in space to be sci-fi and not fantasy.

A few weeks ago, I posted a link to a genre map. The fantasy subsection can be found here:

It provides some great general ideas on fantasy subgenres. Of course, not everyone will agree on these; some people may be more strict with their definitions while others are less so, but these seem to have some good thoughts that I think you would find broad consensus on.

message 4: by JoLene (last edited Jun 20, 2016 04:45PM) (new)

JoLene (trvl2mtns) | 1532 comments I am one of the ones who sings the praises of Lions :-D

One thing that I've noticed is that authors often get pigeon-holed into a genre based on their first works. Both Guy Gavriel Kay and Stephen R. Lawhead started out writing very typical fantasy works. However, some of their later works are more border line as historical fiction (Lawhead has a trilogy based on the Robin Hood myth that has a small bit of magic, but is really historically rooted). Since they have name recognition in the fantasy section, they continue to be shelved there so people continue to tag their books as such even though the fantasy elements are not strong.

BTW, Kay and Lawhead are some of my favorite fantasy writers. I tend to like historical with a bit of fantasy vs the general hard-core epic fantasy where there are ogres, goblins, etc.

message 5: by Book Concierge (last edited Jun 21, 2016 11:40AM) (new)

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 6015 comments JoLene wrote: "One thing that I've noticed is that authors often get pigeon-holed into a genre based on their first works. Both Guy Gavriel Kay ...

What the ???? I had a whole reply and it just disappeared ... will try again.

Which is why virtually every book by Stephen King - including On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft - has the "horror" tag.

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